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Future of Fire Protection Still Not Settled
by Ashley Murphy

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Before holding the Bradley County Commission's last meeting of 2010, the Finance Committee met at 6 p.m. to discuss the future of fire protection. Legislative Assistant Amy Moore gathered numbers and included the various fire tax rates, costs, etc. for the three different scenarios: Merger, separate or contract. The numbers loosely looked at projected tax costs for the city, rural and fringe areas in all three scenarios. This is meant to help the commission try to decide overall what is the best route to go for Bradley County.

Even though a merged department should split bills equally, the prepared numbers show specific costs being separated by department and which side should pay what. One example is the cost to increase county salaries. This is salary equalization, in order to put county firefighters up to the same pay grade as the city firefighters. This cost is being placed squarely on the county's shoulders right now, even though the county would be putting their entire fund balance into the merger.

The numbers are not final and several more things need to be examined and discussed. Finance Chair Connie Wilson said it could be another week before more information is obtained and that an announcement would be made when the data is in.

After starting the commission meeting, Commissioner Mel Griffith put a motion on next week's agenda to exclude the Bradley County EMS from any dealings with the fire protection ordeal. He believed that the EMS should not be included with the fire departments and should remain a separate entity.

Commissioner Connie Wilson also placed on next week's agenda a resolution to support the development of a comprehensive plan and the applications for grant funding to carry out the comprehensive planning process including a comprehensive plan, detailed area plans for three key areas and appropriate revisions to the zoning and subdivision regulations.

Matt Bentley and John Chandler from the McDonald area spoke before the commission giving their thoughts about the current comprehensive plan. Before taking his seat, Chandler asked the commission to support Wilson's motion at the next meeting.

Erin Fuller from the Tasso area had a few comments about the plan as well, but her last question revolved around the fire protection issue. She asked the commission who would be in control of the fire department if the two departments were to merge into one. Commissioner Jeff Yarber said that was still in discussion and if the departments were to merge, it would be decided then. Fuller stated she believed the county should have control. "Everyone is in the county, but not everyone is in the city," Fuller said.

The Bradley County Commission will meet again on Monday, January 3rd in the Courthouse.